Facebook aims to wipe fake news stories from your newsfeed

Facebook aims to wipe fake news stories from your newsfeed

The queen is dead, boys! President Obama has announced he's going to step down! You can rewrite Facebook's privacy policy to your liking! Sick of seeing fake news stories cluttering up your Facebook newsfeed, getting in the way of content you actually want to see? Facebook feels your pain and is taking steps to cut back on the hoaxes.

Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before, but not everything that appears online is one hundred percent true. In fact, there's a huge amount of content that is twaddle, pish, balderdash -- and lots of people fall for it. Facebook is introducing a new feature that lets you report a story as being fake, and if enough other people do the same, the power of crowd sourcing means the story will be culled.

There are plenty of parody news sites out there, but these aren't really what Facebook has in its sights. However, there are journalists who lie, publications that deliberately try to mislead or paint a vulgar picture, and websites who sex up a dull story with things that are simply made up. Many people are able to spot such a story from a mile off and think "I won't share you", but there are plenty who spread hoax or misleading stories around -- and repetition lends credibility to even the tallest of tales.

Facebook is not aiming to censor stories any more than it already does, but the goal is to warn readers that certain posts may not be quite what they seem. It has long been possible to report content for being offensive, containing pornography and so on, but now a new "It's a false story" has been added. If enough people report a story for being false -- which some may argue is a matter of opinion -- a warning flag will be added to the content, as Facebook explains:

To reduce the number of these types of posts, News Feed will take into account when many people flag a post as false. News Feed will also take into account when many people choose to delete posts. This means a post with a link to an article that many people have reported as a hoax or chosen to delete will get reduced distribution in News Feed. This update will apply to posts including links, photos, videos and status updates.

Of course this will not mean that fake stories will immediately start to diminish -- these things take time -- and there is a danger that the feature will be misused to bury certain types of news story, but this is a move to help protect the gullible.

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